Until recently, Vermont dairy farmer Jack Lazor has been an enthusiastic grain famer. The owner of Butterworks Farm, Lazor spent years growing grains—for animals and people—and then wrote a conversational and encyclopedic guide on grain growing in the Northeast The Organic Grain Grower. In person and on the page, the affable man offers advice on tools and practices for grain growing, harvest, and storage. Read more
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Pointing to a growing consensus in the scientific community about pesticides’ impacts on honey bees and other pollinators, beekeepers in the state have worked with environmental groups to effect local policy. Last week, the Maryland state legislature passed the Pollinator Protection Act, which would ban consumers from buying pesticides that contain “neonics” beginning in 2018. Read more
A few weeks ago, we introduced our readers to Patrick Holden, a farmer and the director of the UK-based Sustainable Food Trust. This weekend, Patrick is bringing together hundreds of scientists, advocates, business leaders, and journalists for a three-day conference in San Francisco on the True Cost of American Food. He points out that while food in the developed world is cheaper than at any other point in history, the resources required to grow and make it—and the environmental and health impacts of doing so—are costing governments and taxpayers a great deal. Read more
Patrick Holden has been talking about the “true cost” of food for years. And while he has engaged activists, scientists, and academics from all over the world in his role as director of the UK-based Sustainable Food Trust (SFT), it is by no means a theoretical discussion for him.
Holden has also been a farmer since 1973, and his family raises dairy cows as part of a small and diverse organic farm in Wales. But, like many dairy farmers around the world, he can’t afford to sell his cows’ milk. Read more
“Eat food…mostly plants,” Michael Pollan has written. Now, an Oxford University study out today confirms once again that this advice might not only extend our lifespans, but it also has huge repercussions for the planet and the global economy.
If everyone ate less meat and other animal products and followed guidelines already recommended for healthy eating—more fruit, vegetables, and whole grains and less meat, salt, and sugar—it would reduce global mortality by up to 10 percent and reduce food-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions between 29 and 70 percent, based on predictions for the year 2050, write Marco Springmann and colleagues in their paper published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. And, for the first time, they have directly linked what people eat to both health and environmental outcomes and the economic costs of those outcomes. Read more
As the climate crisis heats up, agriculture is in the hot seat, not only as a contributor to climate change, but also as a potential solution. Eric Toensmeier has spent the last several years tracking both. A lecturer at Yale University, a senior fellow with Project Drawdown, and the author of several books on permaculture, Toensmeier is also the author of the newly-released book, The Carbon Farming Solution: A Global Toolkit of Perennial Crops and Regenerative Agriculture Practices for Climate Change Mitigation and Food Security.
Three years ago, an explosion at a West, Texas fertilizer plant killed 15 people and injured another 260. In January, the Chemical Safety Board, the federal agency that investigates chemical disasters, released their final report. The conclusions are sobering: More than a thousand communities nationwide are home to similar fertilizer production facilities that store fertilizer-grade ammonium nitrate—the agricultural chemical that caused the deadly explosion, and there are 80 facilities in Texas alone. Vanessa Allen Sutherland, the chairwoman of the agency, told reporters: “It’s possible for another type of incident like this to happen.” Read more
Two years ago, in the middle of summer, the water was shut off on the 143-acre farm and ranch that Dustin Stein manages in Mancos, Colorado.
As a farmer at the beginning of his career, Stein, who runs Stubborn Farm, was fortunate to share senior water rights with his landowner—a sought-after claim in this part of the country. This seniority meant he had access to a backup reservoir, but even that only gave him two more weeks worth of water and didn’t guarantee that the record-setting drought wouldn’t have a serious effect on his 75 head of cattle, row crops, pigs, and flock of hens. Read more
It takes serious sisu to grow food in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Sisu is a Finnish word—the peninsula has more people of Finnish descent than any place outside Finland—that translates roughly as fortitude or stoic persistence. It appears on bumper stickers and souvenirs around the U.P., as the region is known. A deep reserve of sisu is a requirement just to get through a U.P. winter, let alone to make a living by farming. Read more
While El Niño rains have brought some relief to drought-stricken California, Governor Jerry Brown appears to be concerned with the impact extreme weather could continue to have on agriculture in the state. His 2016 budget proposal includes almost $3.1 billion for programs that address climate change and the allotment for agricultural programs jumped from $15 million in 2015 to $100 million. Read more